Creativity

Write to the Centre – A book review and giveaway

Write to the Centre: Navigating life with gluestick and words
by Helen Lehndorf

Write to the Centre - Helen Lehndorf

Do you ever feel like you are a total weirdo? Like no one understands you, or if people knew what you really think, they might be horrified? Do you ever struggle to understand your own feelings and reactions to things and need a bit of help untangling them? I do, I do and I do. – Helen Lehndorf

This book. I don’t know where to start except to say that I love it. LOVE it.

Flipping through it simply to look at the gorgeous imagery is enough to inspire me – a few pages in and I’m itching to get out my journal, gluestick and paints, and get creating.

But the text itself is also inspiring. I’d describe it as part how-to, part memoir. The author shares excerpts from her own journal alongside guidance on journal-keeping. All her ideas and advice are illustrated by her own words from her own journals.

From Write to the Centre

There’s just something so intimate and comforting about reading the words of another’s journals – something that tells you that you’re not alone in your feelings, experiences, views of the world. By the end of the book I feel like I know Helen – like I’ve met a kindred spirit on a journey similar to mine: someone trying to find their way in the world, using creative practice to make sense of it all.

She covers topics like getting started and making journaling a habit, allowing the ugly, navigating life transitions in your journal, processing pain, solving problems, creating rituals, appreciating the good. And each chapter ends with a unique and detailed journaling prompt to get you working in your own journal.

From Write to the Centre

My favourite thing about this book is the imagery from Helen’s visual journals. It is an absolute feast for the eyes and soul; Helen’s distinctive and unique journaling style is colourful, messy and intuitive. She combines collage, painting and her handwriting to create honest and interesting journal pages (see more of her style here). It’s a great book to dip into for a creative boost.

You can grab your copy of the book here.

Giveaway

—- The giveaway is now closed —-

Helen has been generous enough to provide me with a copy to give away. I’m so thrilled to be able to do this because it is such a gorgeous book and it needs to be in the hands of every visual journaler. I’m also throwing in a set of watercolour paints to get you painting in your journal. Here’s how to enter:

  • Share this post, or the image below on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+) or on your own blog
  • Use the hashtag #writetothecentregiveaway
  • Comment below (so I know you’ve shared it and I have a way to contact you!) telling me where you shared it and what you love most about journaling
  • Closes August 31st midnight EST 2017

Win a copy of the gorgeous journaling book Write to the Centre and a set of watercolour paints!

Full disclosure – I was sent a free copy of the book and asked to review it – but I had already purchased my own copy so that’s why I’m giving this copy away. Everything I’ve said in this review comes from my heart – I just adore the book and recommend it to any journaling enthusiast like myself.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Goodbye 2016

I love this time of year. There is something so cleansing about moving out of an old year and into a new one – and these journal prompts can help with just that.

Many of the courses and workbooks released at this time of year contain both a section to reflect on the previous year and a section to set goals and get excited for the new year. I didn’t create a section for the past year in the Magical 2017 Yearbook course because I wanted the course to focus purely on bringing in the wonderful things for the new year. I want the yearbook to be a guide for you through 2017 and I thought having notes about 2016 in there wasn’t necessary – and may even be counterproductive for some.

But I do think it’s important to make peace with the past, celebrate what you’ve achieved, and be honest about the things that didn’t work out. I don’t feel right going straight into the new year without some kind of ritual releasing the year that’s been.

dont look sideways

Why? For me, it’s the feeling of awareness and a sense of closure. Awareness of what has happened this year, but more importantly, awareness about my feelings towards these things. For example, we still haven’t finished our tiny house build (but we are really close!) and that makes me a little disappointed. I don’t want to avoid this feeling, but rather make peace with it and use it to help me figure out how to make next year better.

So, with that in mind, I’ve created some journal prompts to get you thinking about the year that’s been. There are loads of great prompts online, I’ve just selected some of the ones I love and added a few of my own.

I hope these can guide you through a sort of closing ceremony for 2016, so you can welcome the new year with open arms.

Journal Prompts:

  • What were the most significant events of the year past? List the top three.
  • Describe 2016 in one sentence:
  • This year I’m most grateful for…
  • My biggest achievement this year was…
  • This year I got really excited about…
  • This year I was most inspired by…
  • My greatest challenge this year was…
  • I need forgive myself for…
  • My biggest piece of unfinished business from this year is…
  • The greatest lesson I’ve learned this year is…
  • How have you grown as a person this past year? How are you different this year than last?
  • This year I wish I had done more…
  • I wish I had done less…
  • What was the best way you used your time this past year?
  • If you had more time to invest in this past year, what would you do with it?
  • If I could redo 2016, I would…
  • Write a letter to the you from the start of last year. What advice would you give yourself?
  • If 2016 was a book, what would the title be? Name some of the chapters.
  • Did you have a guiding word or guiding values for 2016? How did it serve you? How did it challenge you?
  • The biggest gifts of 2016 were…

Be gentle with yourself when going through this, it can be tough if the past year has been a difficult one. I always find a cup of tea, some nice music and a candle, incense or essential oils are comforting.

Happy new year!

Creativity

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

Lately, I’ve been in a real creative slump.

It began when I finished running my first course, Wild Intuitive Journaling, and I noticed my creative well was dry. I’d poured so much into the creation of the course that I had little left by the end of it.

Add to that the fact that I’ve been feeling unwell for about a month and I’ve had no interest or energy to create anything at all. I barely picked up my journal, struggled to write any blog posts or share on social media.

Yep, I was well and truly in a creative slump. 

I did what I usually do at this point – panic that all my creativity and inspiration had left me for good. That I would never write or paint again. That, it turns out, I’m not an inherently creative being – that was just a front I’ve kept up for a few years – and really I’m this sad and hopeless person underneath.

But I’ve been through enough creative slumps now to realise that none of that is true. More than that, I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes. It made sense that after a period of intense creativity, coupled with needing to look after my unwell self, that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to create.

I’ve realised that creativity is cyclical – like anything else. It waxes and wanes.

So I allowed myself the time to do nothing. To step back and be gentle.

But as the weeks turned into a month, and I found myself feeling better, I wondered how, exactly, I could get my creative mojo back. I was ready to jump back in but had no idea where to start.

Here’s what I’ve found helpful as I carefully step back into the creative arena.

6 ways to get out of a creative slump

1. Go easy on yourself

First of all, don’t beat yourself up for not creating. Don’t add blame and guilt to fire. If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a creative slump, chances are there is a good reason you are there. For me, that reason was illness and needing to refill my creative well.

And you know what? Even if there isn’t a ‘good’ reason that you can identify – that doesn’t matter. Don’t make yourself feel worse by adding guilt or shame – let yourself off the hook. You’re allowed to take a break.

2. Seek out inspiration

This, honestly, has been my favourite part. I’ve taken it as a chance to soak up the work of others, to seek out what excites me. I’m scouring the blogs of my favourite journalers, I’m going back through my Pinterest boards to see images that fill me with inspiration. I’m watching YouTube videos and going back through materials from past journaling courses I’ve taken.

I have certain journalers whose work I love, who never fail to inspire me. Looking at their work sparks a little inspiration inside, and the more I look through it, the more it fans the flames. Before long I’m grabbing my paints and scribbling in my journal.

3. Join a challenge or group

There are so many free art groups and challenges out there. The best thing about joining something like this is the accountability. You feel you need to show up and participate – especially if you’ve declared publicly that you’re doing it.

Not only that, but there is so much support from other creatives. The more you share, the more people will cheer you on. That feels really good. And when you hit a wall, if you share that with the group, you’ll be amazed to find others are feeling the same. Sometimes we think we are alone in our struggles, but when we share them with others we quickly learn we aren’t.

Another good thing about joining a challenge is that it can be a good way to jump-start your practice. Often a challenge will have a theme or prompts, or other guiding material which can help guide you as you step back into your creativity.

Here are some of my favourite art/journaling challenges and groups – all of them are free. Some of these have time frames and some are ongoing:

Journaling Dangerously challenge and Journaling Dangerously group

15 Minute Practice challenge and 15 Minute Practice group

Index-Card-A-Day challenge and ICAD-2016 group

Inner Excavate Along challenge and Inner Excavation Group

Journal 52 challenge and Journal 52 group

30 Day Journal Project

100 Days Project

4. Treat yourself to new supplies

This can be a really fun way to get out of a creative slump. And let’s face it – who among us doesn’t have a massive list of dream art supplies? Don’t break the bank, but it surely wouldn’t hurt to allow yourself to grab a few pots of that paint you’ve always wanted to try, or some new brushes, or a few balls of that gorgeous yarn.

Sometimes the excitement of trying a new material, colour or tool can be enough to get us creating again.

5. Sign up for a course

Is there an online course you’ve been eyeing for ages but never allowed yourself to sign up for? Now’s the time. Find an artist or teacher you love or whom you’ve always wanted to learn from, and indulge.

A word of warning – this can be an easy way to waste money, if you’re not careful. Obviously, signing up for the course alone won’t get you out of the slump – you’ll need to show up and do the work. But, if you sign up for a course that truly inspires you, one that ignites that creative spark inside, then that should certainly be a good investment.

Another thing to consider here is to take baby steps – don’t sign up for the six month intensive, maybe just start with the four week introductory course and go from there. The last thing we want is for you to feel overwhelmed, and then guilty for not following through!

6. Take time out from other things

It might be that you’re in a creative slump because you haven’t had the time or energy to create – your life has been too full. Maybe you’ve found yourself working extra shifts at work. Maybe you’re taking on more responsibilities around the house, or helping a friend or family member with something. Perhaps you’ve signed up for a new exercise programme at the gym.

Whatever it is, if you want to have the time and energy to create again, you might need to make some sacrifices somewhere else. I’m not suggesting you quit the gym or leave your job, but you might need to ask for help from someone else to allow you a little time to create. Ask your spouse to watch the kids one night a week so you can journal. Take your knitting to work and use your lunch break as a chance to knit. Wake up a little earlier to get 15 minutes of writing in.

Try to find a way to allow more time and energy in your life to get creative, even if that means taking some time or energy out from another area of your life. Chances are, you’ll feel better for it.

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I’m now finding myself taking careful and gentle steps back into my creative self-expression. Writing this post is one of the first ways of doing that, and I hope it helps even one person find their creative footing again.

Remember, you’re not alone and your inspiration isn’t gone forever – it will come back around when the time is right.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal spotlight: Dream journal

One of my favourite things about journaling is learning more about myself – my values, desires, goals, fears, strengths and weaknesses. For me, journaling is a tool to dig deeper into who I am and what makes me tick.

One of the best ways to learn more about ourselves is to look into the symbols and themes in our dreams. Keeping a dream journal is a great way to record our dreams so we can better understand what they might mean.

I’ve always wanted to keep a dream journal, but whenever I’ve started one in the past I’ve never kept it up. After writing this post, I think I’m going to have a go, at the very least, at incorporating more dreams into my daily journal.

I have pretty vivid dreams most nights, and I certainly have repeated places, people, events and themes in my dreams. I love the idea of recording them to reread later and interpret some of the deeper meanings.

One of the best description of dreams I’ve ever heard is from one of my favourite movies, The Giver:

Dreams: A combination of reality, fantasy, emotions and what you had for dinner.

So what is a dream journal? Basically, you record the dreams you have at night, when you wake in the morning.

Why keep a dream journal?

There are lots of reasons to do so, but here are a few that resonate with me:

  • Greater understanding of yourself. You can uncover deeper feelings, desires, concerns and other things about yourself that are usually below the surface of your awareness. Recording them will allow you to dig deeper and possibly figure out what’s happening down there.
  • Inspiration. There are some really cool things that come up in our dreams due to the fact that our logical mind shuts down at this time. If you’re a creative who’s looking for ideas, you could stumble on some interesting things in your night time adventures!
  • Get better at lucid dreaming – that awesome state where you know you are dreaming so you can control what happens!

How to start your own dream journal

Choose a journal you want to record your dreams in and keep it beside your bed, or somewhere else you will remember to pick it up first thing.

Set the intention before going to sleep that you will remember your dreams.

First thing upon waking, record whatever you remember. It doesn’t have to make sense, just get it down – even if you have forgotten big portions of the dream, record what you can remember. Be as detailed as possible.

Don’t judge what comes up, just record it.

You can use drawings as well – you don’t have to stick to words! If you want to capture a certain place or feeling, you could draw it or use colour in your dream journal. Combining written and visual elements may also help to stimulate more dream recall.

Give the dream a title or sum it up in a sentence. This is a neat idea I read about here.

Practice – the more you do this, the more you will start to remember your dreams in more detail. Keep going.

And then what?

After you’ve been doing this for a while, you may like to look back through your dreams to get a better understanding of yourself. Certain images, themes, words, colours, events or people may reoccur. You could go through and highlight some of these, then journal about what they could mean.

You could use a dream dictionary for guidance, but personally, I believe that we are the experts on ourselves. You will start to notice patterns in your dreams that you will probably be able to interpret yourself. If you also keep a personal journal, you could possibly match up what has been happening in your life with what has been appearing in your dreams.

Try not to take it too seriously. While I think there most certainly are some deeper meanings we can uncover from our dreams, I also think that some of them are simply, as The Giver says, ‘what you had for dinner’.

Do you keep a dream journal? What do you enjoy about it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Creativity

Journal spotlight: Art journal

I’m going to start simply by saying that an art journal can be anything you want it to be, really.

In its most simple sense, an art journal is any kind of journal where you express yourself visually. Often art journals are mixed media – that is, a combination of elements such as collage, acrylic or watercolour paint, gouache, pencil, crayon, stamps, inks, etc.

I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure out exactly what an art journal is, at least for me. I’ve seen the beautiful works of people like Tamara Laport, the simple but touching pieces by Nicole Rae, the messy and inspiring sketchbooks of Lisa Sonora, and the gorgeous and striking works by people like Alena Hennessy and Hali Karla.

I’ve worked in sketchbooks, gluebooks, journals, binders, altered books… I’ve collaged, stamped, painted, drawn, written, sprayed, taped, watercoloured, lettered… and still I have struggled to define exactly what art journaling is.

I’ve struggled to find my own style and really claim my own art journaling approach.

Then, a dear friend of mine pointed out that I do have my own style – I just wasn’t acknowledging it.

You see, I had always thought that art journaling was not the same thing as visual journaling. In fact, here is an awesome video that discusses this point quite nicely.

So while I’ve been journaling visually for some time – in a similar sketchbook style to Lisa Sonora (if I may be so bold as to suggest that), I haven’t felt as though I have been art journaling, really, at all. Sure I was incorporating art techniques into my visual journaling, but it certainly wasn’t art.

Perhaps it’s the word ‘art’ in the name art journal – I mean, no pressure, right?!

I much prefer the term visual journal, or creative journal.

For a while, I saw an ‘art journal’ as more focused on particular techniques and creating a specific, visually pleasing outcome, and the term ‘visual journal’ as more about the process and self expression. Now… I’m not so sure.

When I saw Lisa Sonora had blown up images from her sketchbooks to put up onto the walls of her studio, a little thought crept into my head: maybe, just maybe, this could also be art? She says,

They’re not art…but they are artifacts of a creative journey. It’s like meditation, but with art supplies.

I don’t know. Seeing them up on the wall like that, they sure look like art to me. Surely they can be both?

As for my own messy journals – I may not have found a style that looks anything like the work of Tamara, or Alena, but I’ve got my own visual approach. Who’s to say it’s not art, in some form? And it will continue to evolve over time, as I do. I figure as long as I’m expressing myself visually, well, that’s all that matters.

My advice to anyone who wants to start an art journal: grab some art supplies you like (acrylic paint is a good one, as are stamps) and play. That’s it. I was going to give some lengthy list of instructions but really, you don’t need them and they would only serve to confuse or intimidate someone starting out. Find an artist you love and copy their style for a bit, then copy the work of someone else. Do this many times over and you will start to find your own style. Give yourself permission, try to get past the fear of creating, and practice being imperfect. You don’t have to show anyone, or you can join 15 Facebook groups and show the world. There is no right or wrong way.

Do you keep an art journal? How do you define art journal? Do you see art journaling and visual journaling as different things? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Creativity, Self Empowerment

How journaling can change your life

I’ve been journaling since I was ten years old, but it wasn’t until I committed to a regular journaling practice that things in my life began to really shift.

I’ve maintained that practice for four years now and in that time a lot has changed in my life. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these positive changes have happened since I’ve been journaling consistently.

In fact, my experience has shown me that regular journaling is one of the best tools we can use to transform our lives.

It might sound a bit too easy, but it’s true: anyone can use their journaling practice to create positive changes, overcome fear and bring their dreams to life.

Early on in my journaling practice I noticed some pretty massive changes in my life. In the space of two years, the following things happened:

  • I’ve begun and maintained a creative practice, including making and sharing my art
  • I’ve left a full-time job that was slowly sucking the life out of me
  • I’m more at peace and happier than I have been in a long time (as someone who has been through many depressive episodes in her life, I’ve not even been close to feeling that way since developing my journaling habit)
  • My relationship with my partner has improved dramatically (as a side note, he proposed to me shortly after I began my journaling practice, which I also do not think is a coincidence)
  • I’ve started and maintained a writing practice through a blog, something I’ve wanted to do for years
  • My partner and I have made our tiny house dream a reality – building our own house together after years of talking about it
  • I’ve created an online business using my writing, teaching and coaching skills
  • My partner and I have found a way to purchase our dream property and move to the countryside

In short: many of my long-term dreams have become a reality.

How is this possible? What is it about journaling, the simple act of writing down our thoughts and feelings regularly, that has allowed my life to change in such dramatic ways?

It comes down to a few simple factors.

Getting clear

Each morning when I open my journal to write, I find myself writing about what’s happening in my life: what I’m doing, how things are going, what’s working and what’s not.

I write about the things I dream of, what I hope for, what I long for.

This is what happens when you journal regularly: each and every day you show up to the page, you refine and clarify exactly how you want your life to look as you bring into your awareness the things that are and aren’t working in your life as it is.

You also get clear about the things standing between you and the life you want: journaling encourages you to dig deep so that you can uncover your doubts, worries and fears.

Before long, it becomes clear what it is that you want and what it is that is standing in your way.

It takes honesty and courage to get clear, but the more regularly you journal, the more clarity you will get.

  • Try this: make lists of the following:
    • What’s working in my life
    • What isn’t working in my life
    • What I want my life to look like
    • What I long for

Reread these lists as you journal over the coming days.

Connecting

Some believe that journaling, like meditation and other spiritual practices, allows you to connect with the divine or a greater power than yourself. Others believe that journaling allows you to connect with your own higher self, a source of inner wisdom. Some believe these two are the same thing.

God, inner wisdom, the universe, the divine… call it what you like, but something magical happens when you show up to the page often enough. You open up a channel to a higher source of wisdom, faith and courage to which you wouldn’t normally have access.

When you journal regularly, this connection is strengthened and can become a valuable source of guidance. This connection allows for inspiration. It helps you to feel strong and courageous. It reminds you to have faith even when you might falter.

Through this connection to something bigger, you can often find the answers you seek. By asking questions in your journal and being open, answers will come.

Fostering a daily connection with our highest and wisest self can only be a good thing.

  • Try this: take some quiet time alone with your journal. Decide how you would best like to address the source of higher wisdom you seek (e.g. God, inner self, universe, divine, etc). Then, write to this source asking a question you want the answers to. Be clear, direct and honest. Once you have written your question, take a moment to pause and sit in silence. Whatever comes to mind, write this down. This is the response. Be open to whatever you hear and allow it to come freely.

Overcoming resistance

So you get clear about what you want, you find the answers and guidance you need, but what about actually taking steps to make things happen?

The journal is a powerful tool to help you overcome resistance. Resistance is usually just fear disguised as procrastination, excuses, distractions, perfectionism, and other similar states.

Resistance is usually present when doing something new, making a change, or stepping out of your comfort zone in any way. Resistance is the reason so many wonderful dreams don’t become reality.

But I have found the fastest way to kill resistance is to expose it. Journal about it. Get honest and let it all out.

Why? Because when you write down your fears, when you put them into words and onto paper, they lose their power. They are no longer these big scary ideas floating around in your mind – they are mere sentences and words. And most of the time, you will see that they aren’t that scary after all.

  • Try this: in your journal, answer this question: what is stopping you from creating a life you love? Write honestly and let all your fears pour out onto the page. Don’t worry if they sound silly; just write whatever it is that is bothering you. When you have finished, write an affirmation encouraging yourself to be bold.

Staying in alignment

The daily act of writing means that you are regularly checking in with yourself. Instead of pushing through busy days without a moment to stop and think, the act of journaling forces you to slow down and reflect. It brings awareness to your life.

Each day that I show up to my journal and complain about something that is not working in my life is a reminder that I’m not doing enough of the things that bring me joy, that are taking my closer to my dreams.

Journaling daily – checking in with yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually on a regular basis – can help you to stay on track.

Why? Because it highlights areas of incongruity in your life. You may journal about how much you hate being in debt but then in the same entry write about how you love shopping. What may not be obvious in your daily life can be easily highlighted when you write it down – and especially so when you write it down often.

Journaling regularly reminds you of your goals and values and brings awareness to your thoughts and actions. Slowly but surely, the two will come into alignment and, as long as you keep journaling, they will stay that way.

  • Try this: for the next week, write every day for 15 minutes at the same time. Use this time to check in with yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually. How are you feeling? What is on your mind? What is your current energy? Note down anything else you want to.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago and it’s all because I pick up my pen to write and create for 30 minutes each day.

Why not give it a try?

Creativity

7 Things you can do right now to create a daily journaling habit

The start of a new year brings the chance to re-establish good habits. For me, this of course includes my daily journaling practice – a chance to recommit to my favourite ritual. Most importantly, I want to make sure that it is a priority each day.

I want to make sure that this year I will continue to maintain my daily journaling habit and not let it get lost in the chaos of life.

I’ve journaled pretty consistently for over two years now (and inconsistently for over a decade before that), so I know the best ways to make sure I stay on track. If you’ve struggled to make your journaling a priority every day, then these tips will help you.

1. Schedule it into your day

This might seem a bit obvious, but when you’re busy it’s easy to not make daily journaling a priority, or to just simply forget in the busyness of life. You could write it down with your important tasks for the day into your paper planner, or put it into your Google calendar to get a reminder. Even writing it on a post-it note to stick on your desk would be helpful.

2. Set your alarm earlier

One of the best ways to make sure your daily journaling gets done (much like exercise, so they say) is to do it first thing. And if you just don’t feel like you have the time, then set your alarm 10, 20 or 30 minutes earlier. It is such a positive way to start the day – to connect with your deeper self, get clear headed and invite purpose and inspiration into the rest of your day. Alternatively, get ready for bed a little bit earlier then spend a few minutes journaling before switching off the light. This is what I’m doing right now and it’s a wonderful way to wind down for bed.

3. Tell someone else

We all know that one of the best ways to stay accountable towards a goal is to share our goal with someone else. Maybe you can find a journaling buddy with whom you can share journal inspiration. Or join a group of like-minded journalers who have the same goal of daily journaling. Check in with them each day and share your progress. It can also be really inspiring to see others working in their journal each day – and it can push you to keep going with yours. Sharing your journaling journey can be a great way to keep you feeling inspired.

4. Prep your journal

This can be as simple as putting the journal and pen on your nightstand so you naturally pick it up before going to sleep, or it can mean preparing a background to write on when you get the time. For example, if you like to write in the mornings, you might prepare a background before bed the night before, so it’s ready to go when you wake up. If you like to use prompts, print out a bunch at once, maybe for the week ahead, and glue them onto a few pages. Then you can just pick up and go!

5. Work in the cracks

I can’t remember where I heard this phrase, but it makes so much sense: we think we need a good 30 minutes undisturbed to sit down and journal, but really it can be done in bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if you leave a journal open to a spread you’re working on, it can be easy to swipe a bit of paint across the paper right before you head out to work. That literally only takes 2 minutes. Then when you get home and the paint is dry, you might stamp a few images or glue something down while you’re waiting for dinner to cook. Watching a movie with your partner that night you might scribble a few words down. Before you know it, you’ve got a page done.I find this really helpful when I’m busy – I will leave my journal lying open on my desk and then when I get a few minutes – say, if I’m waiting for the kettle to boil – I will scrape a bit of paint across the page and put down a piece of washi tape. It doesn’t have to be all done at once! Chip away when you have a minute or two free.

6. Take your journal with you

This can offer another opportunity to work in the cracks. If you’re sitting at the bus stop, or you’ve got 10 minutes free on your lunch break, or you talk to people on the phone a lot and doodle on a notepad – work in your journal! It can be mindless doodles or deep and thought-provoking -it’s up to you. So often I find myself killing time at work or waiting places (doctor’s waiting rooms, at cafes when meeting friends etc) that could be used creatively. I now take a tiny notebook with me for on-the-go journaling.

7. Get clear on your why

You won’t be able to create a regular journaling practice unless you really want to. It takes commitment to showing up each day, working through stuckness and dealing with the discomfort of trying new things and facing your thoughts and feelings. If you do want to create a daily journaling habit, get clear on why, so it’s easy to keep showing up. It’s not enough to just think it would be fun, because some days it isn’t. Some days it’s frustrating, disappointing, even painful. But it can bring so much growth, it can help you to create a better life and become a better person, and it can nourish you creatively. For me, those things are reason enough to show up each day, even when I’m busy. What is your why?

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If you’ve maintained a regular journaling practice most days, what do you use to help you stay on track?

Creativity

Overcoming fear in the creative process

4 ways that fear can hinder the creative process and what to do about it

Of all the things I’ve thought about myself, I never would have thought to describe myself as ‘fearful’.

But, when I began a regular dialogue with myself by journaling every day, I started to see how much fear held me back in my life. I have lived a lot of my life in fear, mostly without knowing it.

As I developed my journaling and creative practice, I noticed a strange thing happening. As much as I loved creating, I also found a great deal of resistance towards it. I would sign up for the latest course, buy the art supplies I’d been lusting after, then stop.

The tricky thing about fear is that it has so many disguises, we sometimes don’t even recognise it. I wasn’t not creating because of fear! How silly. No, I was just really busy, you see. Plus, I wanted to do it just right, so I was waiting until I had the skills and time to perfect it. Also, it was really important that the house was clean and I checked my emails before starting.

No, it wasn’t about fear at all, right?

Nonsense. It was fear all along.

But because of the way that fear is so sneaky it took me a while to realise what was actually going on. Resistance is fear. Avoidance is fear. Perfectionism is fear. Procrastination is fear. It was just fear in its many disguises.

I suspect I am not alone in battling the many faces of fear when creating. I wanted to share some of the things I have learnt and the tricks I have used to beat fear at its own game.

This is one of the easiest ways fear gets us, because it can seem so legitimate. Of course you have to clean the house, that’s not fear – that’s being responsible. And you’ve been meaning to organise your bookshelves for ages anyway, so now is as good a time as any. And today is probably a good day to sort out the dry cleaning you’ve had waiting to take in. And of course, you can’t begin until your desk is tidy.

STOP!

It is amazing what we can convince ourselves to do when we are procrastinating on a project. I can put off folding the laundry for days if I feel like it, then as soon as it’s time to start writing a blog post I can hear the laundry calling my name.

Or, it could go the other way: I sign in to my computer to see the next video in the art course I’m doing, and before I realise it I’ve spent two hours on Facebook and another hour reading blogs.

That’s the thing about the internet – it is the ultimate procrastinator’s tool. It can start with a simple ‘I’ll just check my email’ and then you fall into the procrastination vortex, only to resurface an hour later wondering what happened.

But procrastination is nothing more than fear, particularly when it comes to the creative process. You need to be wise to the signs and look it right in the eye.

Try this:
  • Make a list of all the ways you procrastinate. Be as specific as possible.
  • Post this list somewhere you can see it so that you can be aware of when you are procrastinating.
  • If you’re prone to online distraction, use an app that blocks access you the internet for set periods of time (yes, you will survive).
  • Something a bit different: In your allotted ‘creative time’, deliberately do all the things on your list (or as many as possible) instead of creating. Procrastination is often an unconscious process, so once you start trying to procrastinate, it usually stops working.

There is a lot more to procrastination than what I’ve covered. For more amusing and insightful reading on procrastination in general, you can’t go past this article and then this one on Wait But Why. Yes, I spent some time reading those posts instead of writing this one.

Perfectionism

This one is a bit tricky because it can be quite deeply ingrained, especially if you are a bit of a Type A personality or prone to perfectionism in many areas of your life. This is something I struggle with constantly when creating.

In fact, I like to buy spiral-bound notebooks for art journaling because I can always rip a page out if I ‘mess it up’. In my mind, working in properly bound books is tantamount to getting a tattoo on my face. It cannot be undone! It takes all my strength to just create anyway.

But your work will never be perfect. And that is why perfectionism is one of the most destructive ways we stop ourselves from creating – because it is based on a myth: that our work could possibly be perfect, if we just try hard enough.

No. That’s a lie that fear tells us.

And in believing that, we are really short-changing ourselves because often we know that if we don’t start it, we won’t mess it up. If we keep it in our minds, it can remain perfect. I love this line:

Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly – Robert H. Schuller

Or, stated more simply: a done something is better than a perfect nothing.

Try this:
  • Buy yourself the cheapest notebook/journal/supplies possible. This should take away the ‘preciousness’ of them. Fill them with wild abandon and then buy another cheapie.
  • Do something poorly on purpose. Don’t try to make it good – just do it as if you didn’t really care. Then do another and another. Practice being ok with not being perfect.
  • Make a copy of the quote/saying above and place it somewhere prominently in your workspace.
  • Something a bit different: I think that the benefits from journaling or art journaling are often found in the process of creating, not in what we create. When you sit down to create, try to focus on the process instead of the product. Take a few deep breaths before beginning and bring your attention to the present. Eliminate any other distractions. Take pleasure in the movement of the pen across the page, the sweep of the brush. And when you are done, throw the finished product away.

Avoidance

This could potentially have been put under the heading of Procrastination, but I wanted to pay particular attention to the way that avoidance can manifest itself in other ways.

Similar to procrastination, we can often find ways to avoid doing what we deeply long to do, simply because we feel fearful. In particular, I find busyness and numbing to be two powerful avoidance tactics.

Busyness is symptomatic of life in the twenty-first century. We are more overwhelmed by professional, social, familial and financial commitments than ever before. Add in possible health commitments, domestic commitments and other distractions and it starts to become impossible to imagine fitting in time for a creative practice.

But if you want to make time to create, you will – you can. Make sure that you are not using busyness as an excuse to avoid creating.

Numbing is another tactic that can help us avoid creating.leap

Creating is scary stuff: we have to be comfortable with making mistakes, growing, being vulnerable. It’s easy to avoid the dangers of this if we just watch TV, or have a drink, or go shopping, or have another nap. These things can take the edge off our feelings of fear, and disconnect us from ourselves.

The scary thing is that we can’t just numb some feelings – when we numb feelings of fear and vulnerability, we also numb good feelings.

It is only through facing the scary feelings that come with creating that we get to experience the growth, inspiration, accomplishment and bliss it can bring. That’s not to say that all creative experiences will be a bed of roses, but, more often than not, facing the fear and vulnerability head-on leads to a rewarding experience.

Try this:
  • Literally schedule in creative time. Write it in your planner, on the family calendar, put an alert in your phone – whatever. Tell your friends/partner/self that this time is sacred and will not be given up. Try to make it the same time every day/week so that you and others know that Sunday evening is creative time and you are unavailable then. Getting into a routine can help to make creativity a habit.
  • Make a list of all the ways that you numb. My main numbing activities are watching hours of TV episodes, eating when not hungry and oversleeping. Yours might include online shopping, watching lots of movies and drinking. Whatever these numbing habits are (no judgement please!), you need to bring awareness to them.
  • I have found journaling to be invaluable in bringing awareness to my numbing habits. Often I will sit down to journal and think, ‘I don’t have much to say, there isn’t a lot going on’. This is usually a sign to me that I’ve been numbing in some way or other, because I don’t seem to be feeling much. Try journaling regularly each day to check in with what numbing activities you have been doing and how they are making you feel.
  • Get comfortable with discomfort, and go gently: accept that you will feel some feelings you may not enjoy, but that they cannot harm you and they will pass. Be gentle with yourself.

Inner Critic

I couldn’t write a post about creativity and fear without mentioning the inner critic. While not necessarily a separate category from those above, it does deserve special attention.

The inner critic tends to rear its head once you actually start the work. It’s the voice inside that tells you your work is no good. Often it will spiral into a rant along a the lines of: this sucks, you can’t do this, you’re worthless, just stop.

It’s a shame that once you have overcome the obstacles of perfectionism, procrastination and avoidance to actually start creating, the inner critic is waiting to pounce. You’ve managed to sit down and get to work, but the inner critic makes it so painful and unpleasant you want to stop.

The inner critic is once again based in fear. Often the inner critic and perfectionism can work hand-in-hand to make the whole process one big crapfest.

All I can say is this: the sooner you learn to deal with your inner critic’s wily ways, the sooner you will make progress creatively.

Try this:
  • Draw a picture of your inner critic or find an image that represents how you think it looks. Give it a funny hat, or a monocle, or a silly bow tie. You could even give it a name, so that when you’re creating and it speaks up you can think, oh that’s just Dave doing his job. Silly Dave. This takes a lot of the power away from it.
  • Talk to your inner critic as you create. Every time you have a thought along the lines of this is no good, respond out loud by saying something like ‘thank you, but I will keep going anyway’.
  • Write a dialogue between you and your inner critic in your journal. Ask it questions, tell it how you feel, stand up to it! You might be surprised by what it says!

* * *

Artists and creators have struggled with various forms of fear for centuries, and will continue to do so. It is natural as part of the creative process because being creative requires vulnerability and risk.

The topic of fear and creativity is widely discussed and this post barely scrapes the surface – there is so much more I could say! For further reading, check out this book or this book or even this book!

In the meantime, hopefully these ideas will help you to get around fear and give you a way into your creativity.

What Inspires Me

Wild inspiration

Sometimes I like to share the wonderful things I stumble across online. Here’s what I’ve loved lately.

I can’t get enough of Mary Ann Moss’s journals. This flip through is ewild nzspecially gorgeous.

This is such a good idea!

A reminder of the power of creativity.

It’s been two weeks since I began my year of journaling dangerously, so reading about others who’ve journaled for a year is inspiring.

Akiyo explains why writing morning pages won’t always make you feel good, but are still worthwhile

Or if you’re not a morning person, or don’t like morning pages, what about night notes?

Creativity

Journaling vs. morning pages – what’s the difference?

 

I’ve kept a journal sporadically for twenty years and written morning pages on and off in the past.

Throughout my teens I wrote about crushes, friendships and fights, my biggest dreams for the future. In my early twenties I wrote about my disappointment with the real world, my struggle to meet ‘the one’ and how much I wanted my life to be different.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned my journal could be so much more than simply a place to pour my heart out. It could be used to transform and change my life dramatically, and that’s how I’ve been using it ever since. My goal with a year of journaling dangerously is to really focus this powerful tool into creating an even better life for myself.

I got the idea for the project from the awesome book, Paris Letters. The author has a ‘year of journaling dangerously’ where she writes morning pages every day for a year. Her life is transformed in unexpected ways.

What I’m doing isn’t strictly morning pages, but I am hoping for the same outcome: a life that looks different in a year’s time. The more I thought about how I wanted my project to look, the more I thought about journaling and morning pages and wondered, what really is the difference?

Morning Pages

The term ‘morning pages’ comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. She defines morning pages as: ‘three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness’. Unlike journaling, morning pages have a set of rules:

  • Write every day
  • Write by hand
  • Write first thing in the morning, before doing anything else
  • Write three pages
  • Write whatever comes to mind, without stopping, until you reach three pages (even if that means writing ‘I don’t know what to say’ for three pages)
  • Write whether you feel like it or not
  • Do not reread the morning pages

That’s a lot of rules, but Cameron assures us that doing so will lead to great insights, unblocked creativity, inspiration and a better relationship with ourselves. It’s designed as a sort of ‘brain dump’ – to get all the whiny, petty nonsense out of our brains and onto the page, so we are free to focus on other things.

Journaling

This is a very broad term and cannot be as easily defined as the morning pages. While morning pages are focused entirely on stream-of-consciousness writing, journaling can take many different forms. It’s up to each individual to define what their own journaling practice looks like, but here are some of the most common approaches to journaling.

Types of journaling

  • Written journaling, which can include:
  • Art journaling using some or all of the following:
    • Paint
    • Pencils
    • Pastels
    • Crayons
    • Stamps
    • Collage
    • Inks
    • Writing
    • Photos
  • A combination of any of the above

Journaling is entirely up to the journaler to define. We can journal in the morning, the evening, the middle of the night, or all of these times. We can start and stop, leave a page for days, pause to reflect, and reread as much as we like. Journaling is entirely open to interpretation, and I think the reason for this is that we all have a different purpose for journaling.

The purpose of journaling

The purpose of journaling goes beyond unblocking our creativity, which is the primary goal of morning pages. Journaling can include any and all of the following goals:

  • A form of creative self-expression
  • A way to connect with our inner, wiser selves
  • A way to connect with God
  • A way to process emotions
  • A place to explore goals and dreams for the future
  • A way to keep track of day-to-day appointments, events, goals, etc
  • A place to record favourite quotes, song lyrics, sayings
  • A way to learn more about who we are and what we desire
  • A method for tapping into inner resources such as courage and determination
  • Creating a channel to receive inspiration
  • A place to play with colour, composition, media, language – whatever we like

I’m sure there are many more reasons that people journal that I’ve not covered here. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

The difference

While journaling is very open to interpretation, morning pages come with a set of rules. We could certainly include morning pages as part of our journaling practice, but the same could probably not be said the other way around.

It seems to me that the greatest difference between the two is the rules with the morning pages, and possibly the purpose of each.

What matters, really, is that you find a way of journaling that works for you. If you find the guidelines of morning pages helpful, then do that. If you prefer the freedom to approach the page differently each day, then let yourself do that. The important thing is that you enjoy the process and that it brings some benefit to your life.

I believe that any form of journaling regularly (morning pages included) will bring all kinds of benefits to your life, regardless of what method you choose. Instead of worrying about whether you are doing morning pages ‘right’ or whether you are journaling ‘properly’ – just enjoy it, and keep showing up.

What does journaling mean to you? Do you do morning pages, journaling, or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.